On 42-6 vote, Iowa Senate endorses birth control access at pharmacy counter

DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that would let adult women in Iowa skip the requirement of a prescription and be able to buy birth control at the pharmacy counter.

Republican Governor Kim Reynolds expressed support for this concept last fall and Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, praised the senate’s bipartisan 42-6 vote.

“This is really quite a big day for the state of Iowa to do this,” Mathis said. “…I’m not excluding men here, but I think women understand intimately the issues surrounding access to birth control.”

Three first-term senators — all women — urged their colleagues to vote for the bill.

“As the mother of a daughter, I think that this is another layer of options for our women in our state,” said Republican Senator Carrie Koelker of Dyersville. “It helps with family planning and unwanted pregnancies.”

Chris Cournoyer of LeClaire, another Republican who was just elected to the senate last November, said the bill will give Iowa women access to affordable birth control.

“It is responsible,” she said. “It is under the supervision of a pharmacist and it has been an established, proven method of birth control that has worked for women all across this country for many, many years.”

Republican Senator Tom Greene of Burlington, a retired pharmacist, said Iowa pharmacists have had six years of intense training about proper dosage levels and will recommend a women seek a doctor’s advice if there are any concerns.

“It behooves all of us to make sure that young women of today have access to proper care,” Green said.

First-term Senator Claire Celsi of Des Moines, a Democrat, voted for the bill, but expressed “deep reservations” about it, partly because
she had an adverse reaction to birth control.

“No offense to Senator Greene, but pharmacists are not doctors,” Celsi said. “Pharmacists can refuse a woman birth control — did you know that? — if they’re ethically opposed to it.”

First-term Republican Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks, an eye doctor from Ottumwa who’s a former nurse and the former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, guided the bill through the senate. She closed debate on the measure by urging her colleagues to trust women to make this decision.

“I’m going to rely upon my experience with women and caring for women,” she said, “that we’re intelligent, that we’re capable and we’re knowledgeable.”

The bill now goes to the Republican-led House for consideration.